Stasis Theory: The Building Block of Effective Rhetoric
Greek rhetorician and orator of the middle of the 2nd century BC Hermagor was a transitional figure from Hellenistic to Roman rhetoric. Court speeches were the subject of his interest. The importance of these speeches in ancient Rome could hardly be overestimated. Interest in Roman law directly stimulated interest in questions of persuasion and the role of argumentative technique in it. Hermagor was especially popular among the Roman judicial orators, as he focused on the study of so-called ‘stasis’.
Stases (or ‘stasis’) are types of diverse cases. Their schematization, the reduction of diverse cases, and motives to a single small system were of great pragmatic importance, both for the practice of legal proceedings and for teaching. The rhetorical system of Hermagor contained a description of such stases, which took 6 books. The system proposed by Hermagor was complex and very ramified, but Roman orators most appreciated its schematism and breadth of coverage. Descriptions of controversial cases and their logical and legal interpretation were considered especially valuable.
In addition to stasis theory, Hermagor worked on setting out the foundations of rhetorical art, and he was able to use the method of schematization quite productively here, as a result of which he created a textbook on rhetoric, written in the form of firm school rules. Needless to say, it has become widespread. But even more popular were the speeches he developed, which included pre-selected structures of arguments on the most common topics that could be used in future speeches.
Hermagor’s schematism, as well as his stasis theory, was criticized by Cicero and Quintilian.
General Characteristics of the Stasis Theory
Considering the most important part of the question-answer theory, the doctrine of stases, Quintilian does not connect them exclusively with particular questions of a practical nature. The stases are independent of the semantics of variables (the meanings of words) but are determined by the ratio of the meaning of the interrogative word to the set of answers allowed by this question.
Considering the logical order of stasis theory on speculative issues, the first is the status coniecturalis theory issue, followed by the stasis finitionis and the stasis qualitatis:
- The coniecturalis presupposes the question of the presence and composition of the issue under discussion. It examines the possibility and validity of the act and the circumstances of the case. When discussing these issues, the mind is directed to the truth, which appears like reality, and the task of the rhetorician is to achieve the correspondence of words to things, so that speech becomes true;
- The status finitionis theory issue is based on finding the relationship of an individual issue (case) to a rule or norm. It discusses the question of what this argument is and how the general rules to which it can be related correlate with each other. In the stasis theory issue finitionis, Quintilian identifies five main problems: written and conceivable laws, contradictions of laws, norms deduced speculatively, ambiguous norms, rejected norms;
- The third status theory – qualitatis – is the relation of the rule and the case to the special circumstances of the case or problem: the individuality of the actor and the features of the situation, motives, and specific consequences of the action are assessed.
In legal matters, Quintilian gives a different order of stasis theory: coniecturalis, qualitatis, finitionis, prescriptions. In the latter stasis theory, the issue of the legality of the court or the legality of the accusation is decided.
More detailed characteristic of each stasis theory issue is provided below.
First of all, it should be indicated that a general question (lat. an sit?) creates a basis for the stasis coniecturalis. In the status coniecturalis, theoretical and practical problems associated with events, acts, or statements, with facts that take place, timeless, possible in a specific time or in a general form, can be posed. But in any case, the subject of stasis coniecturalis is a fact. In rhetorical argumentation, it is essential that only the understanding of a fact as an event or deed works, the reality of which is recognized by the participants in the discussion.
In terms of rhetoric, fact has a complex structure. It includes the agent, the action, the object of the action, the image or method of action, the state of the agent and the object, the instrument of the action, the composition or procedure of the action, the time of the action, the place of the action, external circumstances of the action, the reason or basis for the action, signs or qualities that characterize the basic components of the issue.
The ratios of pairs of these categories are tops (commonplaces) characteristic of the stasis coniecturalis: a pair of categories – subject, and predicate – forms a model of judgment, for example, “a complete person cannot crawl through a narrow hole”: quality/action. Since the task of the stasis coniecturalis is to argue about the presence of a positive or negative fact, each of the listed components can be a controversial issue. Accordingly, the presence of an issue about which a statement is made can not only be accepted or rejected but also justified in whole or in part. Accordingly, for each ratio of components, a question can be asked:
- Is the person in the given circumstances, or at a given time, or in a given state or issue, able to perform the particular action?
- Is the action the cause of the particular state of the object?
- Could this have been done in a particular sequence and at a specific time? Etc.
It is important to note that the connection between the components of a fact may be different. For example, the point of disagreement may be the presence of the action itself, the purpose, the method, etc., which will give a different relationship between the components. It is possible to highlight the problematic core and the semantic periphery in fact. The problematic core is the main subject of argumentation and determines the content of the statement. The semantic periphery is represented in the form of verbal images, characteristics of the persons involved, the circumstances of the case, participants in its discussion, etc., and creates a general ethical and emotional attitude to the problem.
The fact as positive or negative is argued in the stasis coniecturalis in the content limited by the statement of the question, but the circumstances that are not included in the problematic core of the argumentation of the stasis coniecturalis can be used as material for additional arguments.
If the facts and issues are established and there is agreement about them, but the question of what they are remains controversial: to what semantic area would it be correct to attribute them? Then we are dealing with the stasis theory finitionis and answering the question “quid sit?” – “What is it?”.
The task of argumentation in the status finitionis is to find and substantiate the relation of a fact to a class of facts or to a norm. But both the class of facts and the norm are expressed by the words of the language, in the meaning of which the linguistic, lexical, objective, and conceptual content is highlighted. The subject and purpose of the discussion are the wording of the definition. The definition as an operation is the construction of a concept. To construct a concept, the meanings of words are brought together (defined and defining words) and separated (a defining word and a word that limits its meaning – a synonym, antonym, paronym, etc.). The operations of reduction and dilution of the meanings of words are the discussion material in the stasis theory finitionis. In essence, in the status finitionis, it is not the problem of the truth of the statement that is discussed, but the problem of the correct naming of the established fact.
There are five main problems in the statis finitionis:
- Homogeneous and heterogeneous norms. The hierarchy of norms can relate to both homogeneous norms, for example, legal, and to heterogeneous norms, for example, legal and moral;
- The hierarchy of concepts. Hierarchization, reduction, and dilution of norms and data are the main operations in the statis finitionis, since the task of argumentation is, in fact, to bring a norm to a fact, and not a fact to a norm: a fact is taken as a constant, norms are variable. In accordance with this task, a status-specific interpretation of the fact is carried out;
- Fixed and implied norms. An unfixed norm, even if it is represented by a proverb or other generally accepted maxim, as an allegory, allows various, sometimes opposite interpretations (for example, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth). But conceivable norms, as such, are usually stronger than written ones since they are directly addressed to the self-consciousness of the audience and are obvious;
- Compatibility, reduction, and dilution of concepts. Compatibility is the most difficult argumentation problem in status theory issue finitionis;
- Interpretation of concepts.
In the argumentation of the status finitionis, the main role is played by the categories of the general and the particular (genus and species), the essential and the incidental (accidents and essence), etc.
The status qualitatis discusses the relationship between the truth of the fact and the judgment about its definition’s correctness. Suppose the issues are established and determine what they are, but the person’s qualifications are controversial (it is not clear what specific decision should be made). In that case, we are dealing with the status qualitatis – we are discussing how to apply the established pattern, norm, or rule in this particular situation.
The subject of the action, the object of the action, circumstances, or the relationship between the subject and the object in the given circumstances may be the subject of discussion.
Firstly, the technique of status theory issue qualitatis is the closest to action based on a decision, and secondly, it really opens up wide opportunities for sophistry and manipulation. The issue is that arguments, especially characteristic of the status qualitatis and based on topics related to personality, comparisons, and hierarchies of values, are always quasi-logical: the conclusions of the status qualitatis are only plausible and fundamentally cannot be different.
There are no specific categories for the status theory issue qualitatis. The argumentation uses the topic of the status coniecturalis, status finitionis, qualitative and quantitative comparative categories, etc.
Modern Application of the Stasis Theory
The doctrine of stases is of tremendous importance not only for rhetoric or jurisprudence, which is quite obvious from their history but also for the entire logic and methodology of humanitarian knowledge: a scientific problem in linguistics and other areas of philology, in historical science, economic science, etc., is considered in this way, although not always consciously.
Any, and not just a legal problem, requires the correct and accurate finding of the stasis theory within which it is formulated and resolved. If the problems are discussed inconsistently, and the thought moves on to a new question, not solving the previously posed questions, then the final decision, even if it is made, will turn out to be imperfect.
How Stasis Theory Can Help in Writing a Unique Paper?
Stasis theory issue can significantly simplify and speed up the process of writing any paper since it:
- Allows you to organize work on paper in such a way as to provide the audience with the material in the most accurate, correct, and understandable form;
- Helps with the choice of strong arguments to confirm or refute a certain position;
- Allows you to narrow the topic of work, which is important for providing valuable material and finding an actual solution to a specific problem.
So, the stasis theory has not lost its value today and is successfully used by many modern people. Try to put a stasis into practice to be able to write your paper simply and effortlessly.